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As cities in the developing world continue to grow, so do their traffic safety concerns. Latin America, for instance, now sees three times as many deaths from traffic crashes as Europe, the vast majority of which occur in cities. Vulnerable road users are particularly at risk: Older pedestrians and cyclists can account for up to 45 percent of pedestrian fatalities and up to 70 percent of cyclist fatalities globally.

Improving developing cities’ traffic safety is a critical task for ensuring that these growing urban centers become safe, equitable places to live. A key part of achieving this safety? Sustainable urban design.

In Rio de Janeiro, proximity to transport is key to ensuring that residents have access to jobs and opportunities within the city. Photo Credit: EMBARQ-Brazil

The connection between safety and justice is a major theme of the upcoming World Urban Forum (WUF7), organized by UN-HABITAT, which this year focuses on “urban equity in development—cities for life.” At the event, EMBARQ experts will host a Cities Safer by Design for All networking session. The event will convene key experts and explore ways that urban design can improve safety—and in turn, justice—in developing cities around the world.

At the Intersection of Safety, Justice and Urban Design

Disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted by shortsighted urban design choices, whether it’s the poor—who are forced to live on the city’s periphery—or the disabled, who face mobility obstacles every day. Smart urban design principles can improve these citizens’ quality of life while also boosting a city’s overall safety.

For example, implementing urban design principles like transit-oriented development (TOD), which encourage mixed commercial and residential land use, compact layout, access to high-quality mass transport, and pedestrian-friendly streets, is an important step towards creating livable cities for all communities. Cities built in this way provide opportunities for walking, bicycling, and using transport instead of relying on a car—an expense many cannot afford. Furthermore, promoting sustainable urban design components like bike lanes and pedestrian walkways can have significant traffic safety benefits through reducing exposure—such as by preventing the need for vehicle travel altogether—and risk—by limiting vehicle speeds and prioritizing pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Connecting urban design to safety is a concept that’s still under-utilized by most local officials and even urban planners. But some cities are beginning to emerge as leaders in this space:

Mexico City, Mexico

In order to combat its history of urban sprawl, Mexico City is enhancing its sustainable transport systems and revitalizing public spaces. The newest corridor of the Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT) system took a complete streets approach, which aims to design streets that account for all road users, providing safe infrastructure for transport, cars, cyclists and pedestrians. One shining example of the transformation along Avenida Eduardo Molina is the city’s decision to change a dangerous and confusing intersection design that forced cars and buses to switch from the right side of the road to the left at the stoplight. EMBARQ research finds that streets with such confusing designs, called counter-flow intersections, have 82 percent more severe and fatal crashes than other streets.

Mexico City has also introduced new “pocket parks” or “parklets,” which repurpose street space previously allotted to cars to create new public spaces for socialization and interaction. These spaces help to calm traffic, reduce street-crossing distances for pedestrians, and provide protected areas for recreation. The city has built five in the last year, and expects to build as many as 150 in the coming years.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

As a host to both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro is using these mega events as a catalyst to make significant improvements to its design. One of Rio’s flagship projects is the Morar Carioca initiative, which pledges $ 3.76 billion to improve accessibility, health, education, and the environment in the city’s favelas.

Favelas pose an interesting challenge for city officials, as they house the city’s poorest residents and are often cut off from city services. Furthermore, EMBARQ Brazil’s household travel survey revealed that 90 percent of residents travel on foot while inside favelas, yet 70 percent use public transport when outside favelas. In short, proximity to transport is key to ensuring that these residents have access to jobs and opportunities within the city.

With this in mind, Morar Carioca is the one of the first favela improvement initiatives in Rio to emphasize connecting these communities to the city via new BRT lines like the TransCarioca, which will also connect the core of the city to the Olympic Village in 2016. Systems like TransCarioca will provide vital access to jobs and opportunities in the city center and help ensure that favela residents are not cut off from the benefits of urban life.

Bangalore, India

Plans for a Bangalore plaza and station prioritize safe access to transportation for a growing population. Rendering credit: EMBARQ-INDIA

Bangalore is one of the fastest-growing cities in India, with almost 10 million residents. The majority of this population relies on public transport—most notably bus and metro—for mobility, so it’s imperative that these services meet the needs of all residents. Bangalore, like many Indian cities, is also home to many making a living through the informal economy—such as street vendors and auto-rickshaw drivers—who rely on pedestrian traffic and transit hubs to make their living. While Bangalore’s bus and metro stations are hubs of economic activity, they are also currently hubs of congestion and chaos. Previous attempts to ease congestion and improve safety around these areas have privileged cars over pedestrians and transport users. They’ve also squelched the informal economy, harming the city’s poorest residents.

To reverse this trend, EMBARQ India is working with local authorities to make transport hubs safer for cars, cyclists, and pedestrians while retaining the vitality of the informal economic sector. New station area plans for Bangalore’s Namma Metro prioritize safe access to transport hubs and reorganize public space around these hubs. The redesigned stations promote safer links to other transport modes like auto-rickshaws and buses, provide space for vendors, and improve the quality of the public space and public transit experience for all. With the plans now under development, city officials intend to implement the new station designs over the next two years, improving accessibility and safety in some of the most crowded parts of the city.

Putting Urban Design and Safety on the International Agenda

It’s time to change the narrative about urban design. It’s not about building more roads or luxury apartment complexes; it’s about creating cities that are safer, more livable and healthier for a growing number of residents. As this year’s WUF7 tagline explains, “A safe city is a just and equitable city.”

Discussions at the WUF7 can play an important role in shifting the urban design narrative. While the week-long conference emphasizes civil society participation, the official dialogues will feed into the ongoing discussions of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, clarifying issues related to urban prosperity. These include such broad topics as sustainable cities and human settlements, infrastructure, and economic growth. The WUF7 presents an opportunity for organizations from around the world to insert real examples, bring this agenda to life, and explicitly tie equity to the urban development narrative. In short, the WUF7 discussions are a key way of ensuring that safe and equitable cities are a first-level objective of the U.N.’s emerging SDGs, which are set to be released in 2015.

Every minute of every day, new cities are being built and existing cities are constantly evolving. Smart design can help ensure that these cities are built for people—not cars.

——–

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

Melbourne’s Sustainable Building Program Wins Climate Leadership Award

Ten U.S. Cities Band Together to Cut Climate Pollution

Rooftop Farm in New York City Grows 50,000 Pounds of Organic Produce Per Year

——–

Waging Nonviolence

By Peter Rugh

Monica posing with employees of the Department of Sanitation who are having their workplace turned upside down from Spectra nosing its way into our city. Photos by Erik McGregor.

A hard rain was falling on Monday night as Occupy the Pipeline activists spread out along New York’s Hudson River Park, in front of the site where workers in orange day-glow vests have been laboring around the clock on the New Jersey-New York Expansion Project. Known colloquially by the name of its builder, Spectra Energy, the Spectra Pipeline will pump fuel hydraulically-fracked from Pennsylvania’s gas fields into New York City.

The very real risk of explosion along the densely populated regions through which the pipeline passes have made local residents want nothing to do with the project, as evidenced by letters submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the pipeline’s approval process. Only 22 of the 5,000 letters were in favor of the project.

The Spectra Pipeline is just one of a new breed of high pressure pipelines being built around the country to expand the gas market to meet the increasing output of U.S. shale production. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Oct. 18, 2011, Spectra Energy entered into a $1.5 billion revolving credit agreement with the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Through what’s known as a syndicated loan, Wall Street infused Spectra with capital and spread the financial risk around, while leaving the risk of possible explosion for local residents to bear.

On Oct. 15, Occupy the Pipeline activists wrapped themselves in yellow caution tape as they stood in front of the pipeline construction site. They had black-and-white skeleton makeup on their faces—representing, they said, the danger of fossil fuels turning humans into fossils—which was bleeding down their chins because of the rain. The tape woven around the bodies of those on the line served as a symbol of interconnectivity.

“We are all connected through a web of toxic pipelines,” Occupy the Pipeline organizer Monica Hunken cried out through the people’s microphone, “but we are also connected by a vision for safe and sustainable world.”

Seeing their local fight against Spectra as a microcosm of a broader battle, Occupy the Pipeline put out a call several weeks earlier for those opposing America’s fossil fuel beef-up to join them in a day of action. In Texas, activists who have been carrying out direct actions against the Keystone XL didn’t need much prodding. On #O15, as the date has been called, 50 people stood in the way of the pipeline that NASA climate scientist James Hansen has told the New York Times means “game over” in the fight against climate change.

Michele, Dave, Maureen (from CARP-Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline), Kim & Monica holding the signs. Photos by Erik McGregor.

The Keystone XL is designed to bring heavy crude oil from a deforested region in Alberta, Canada, to export markets along America’s Gulf Coast. After more than 1,000 people were arrested sitting-in at the White House against the pipeline in the summer of 2011, and thousands formed a ring around the White House last November, President Barack Obama announced in January he was nixing approval of the pipeline until after the 2012 election. Quietly, however, his administration gave the go-ahead for construction of the XL’s southern portion.

During a stump speech in Cushing, Oklahoma—a town known as the “Pipeline Capital of the World”—Obama disputed claims that he was a softhearted environmentalist. “We’ve built enough pipeline to encircle the earth and then some,” he told the Cushing crowd. Writing at Grist, shortly after Obama’s Department of the Interior issued four coal mining leases for the Powder River Basin in 2011, Glenn Hurowitz summed up the president’s “all of the above” energy policy as “effectively using modest wind and solar investments as cover for a broader embrace of dirty fuels.” It’s a trick straight out of BP or Chevron’s playbook, writes Hurowitz, to “tout modest environmental investments in multi-million dollar PR campaigns, while putting the real money into fossil fuel development.” But these days Obama does not appear to be playing down his enthusiasm for coal, gas and oil.

While the U.S. under Obama’s leadership is deepening its reliance on fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions have led the climate and the human race along with it into what Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), calls “uncharted territory.” Data collected by Serreze and fellow researchers in September shows that 1.32 million square miles of arctic ice cover withered away over the summer, more than in any year previously on record. The team had anticipated a record melt, but the scope of this year’s de-icing far exceeded its expectations. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up,” reported Serreze, “few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”

Fortunately for those concerned about the impact of fossil fuels on the biosphere, opposition to the escalating rate of ecological devastation has entered “uncharted territory” as well. In what has been termed a “Summer of Solidarity,” actions against ecological devastation took place in numerous regions across the U.S.

More than 50 blockaders risked arrest to stop Keystone XL construction in Texas and bring attention to TransCanada’s repression of journalists attempting to cover the blockaders’ side of the story.

As thousands marched in the first national rally against fracking in Washington, D.C., 50 people walked onto the country’s largest mountaintop removal site in West Virginia and shut it down. Union workers locked out of the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, picketed beside environmentalists. In New York, Occupy the Pipeline challenged Spectra through sit-ins and lockdowns, while Puerto Rican activists battled (and halted) a natural gas pipeline through a campaign in which both islanders and the mainland diaspora took part.

Actions in the U.S. were inspired by bold and brazen acts of ecological defiance globally including the occupation of the massive Bela Monte Dam in Brazil’s rainforest by indigenous tribes amidst the Rio+20 climate conference and a weeklong blockade of the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia. All the while in Texas, lockdowns and tree-sits against Keystone XL took off one after another.

In Massachusetts, where Spectra Energy is attempting to soup up the Algonquin Gas Transmission line, activists with 350.org and the Better Futures Project met the #O15 call with a tree-sit near Boston. They held banners reading, “TransCanada, You Shall Not Win” and “In Unity With @KXLBlockade & @occupy_pipeline.”

“We leave the 'Summer of Solidarity' with friends still sitting in tree tops, with the direct actions of thousands still reverberating, and we enter the 'Autumn of Unity,'” Monica Hunken told the soggy crowd back in New York. As the effects of climate change become more acute Hunken expressed hope that those resisting it will forge stronger ties with one another.

During Occupy Wall Street’s anniversary weekend in New York, I spoke to Sam Rubin, an anti-fracking activist from Ohio who was in town to storm the Stock Exchange. Then, last Sunday, Rubin and comrades blockaded a fracking site in eastern Ohio, ahead of the #O15 day of action. While in New York last month, Rubin told me that he hails from an area outside of Cleveland hit hard by the recession, where U.S. Steel recently reopened a plant for the first time in two years.

“For these guys to be coming back to work is a huge deal for them,” Rubin said. “They are making steal for pipelines to build-up the fracking infrastructure.” Rubin is part of an emerging breed of environmental activists who see their ecological activism as part of a broader movement for social change. As he and other activists draw on the solidarity fermented over the summer, Rubin said it is import to see their ecological struggles within the pervasive framework of global capitalism, “a system based on growth and extraction for profit fundamentally dependent on human exploitation.”

“Otherwise” added Rubin, “I’m just some guy in a bubble who only cares about my little issue.”

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

 

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Jacob Scherr

Used with permission of NRDC - Switchboard

Today, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff met with President Obama in the White House. They will undoubtedly discuss the upcoming big international athletic matches to be held in Rio de Janeiro: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. These games will mark Brazil’s emergence as a power on the world scene; and Brazil plans to invest some $200 billion in new infrastructure for them—an important opportunity for U.S. businesses. However, there is an even more crucial global event being hosted by Brazil this June—the Rio+20 Earth Summit—which deserves both Presidents’ full attention.                                 

Brazil and the U.S. should work together to ensure Rio+20—officially labeled the UN Conference on Sustainable Development—is truly historic and transformative. It needs to be different than the first Earth Summit in Rio held in 1992. That gathering of more than 100 presidents and prime ministers generated thousands of promises, including two treaties and Agenda 21, a 400-page plan of action.

There was real hope then that governments were going to solve the challenge of meeting the ever-growing needs of people while protecting our environment. While there has been some progress, the pressures on the planet have intensified, billions still live in abject poverty, and wealth has become even more concentrated. As Thomas Lovejoy wrote in a New York Times OpEd last week, “human ingenuity should be up to the challenge. But it has to recognize the problem and address it with immediacy and at scale.”

Yet history could repeat itself if President Rousseff and President Obama do not get focused on Rio+20. The U.S. and other countries have argued that the objective of the meeting should be taking action, not producing yet another long plan of action. Yet that is exactly what is now happening.

Since January, the “zero” draft of the Rio+20 output document has swollen to more than 200 pages of abstract statements and collective promises—many of which have been made many times before at earlier international conferences. We need to do more than just say, for example, that the world pledges to provide sustainable energy and safe water in the distant future to the one billion people who lack access to them now.

Imagine if we ran the Olympics this way. What if we brought the world’s athletes together to set goals like, by the end of these three weeks, we’ll have run 10,000 miles jumped 5,000 feet, and made a 1,000 free throws. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Who would be responsible for its achievement? What, exactly, would the incentive be for any one team or athlete to perform? This, you might say, represents a version of the tragedy of the commons: The tragedy of a common agenda that holds no one accountable.

The Olympics are inspiring and successful because they consist of small performances from individual competitors. Each athlete has incentive to succeed, and each sets personal goals to achieve their potential.

It is this competitive spirit and drive that we need to bring to Rio+20. Instead of the traditional approach to international summitry, let’s create a field where all the players—not just national governments—can show off their talents. If Rio+20 is to be meaningful—and for everyone’s sake, it simply has to be—the conference needs to encourage individual countries, communities and corporations to pledge specific, measurable actions to which they are accountable. Here is NRDC’s vision for the 2012 Earth Summit, including our list of potential Rio+20 deliverables from ending fossil fuel subsidies to reducing plastic pollution.

NRDC is advocating for a “cloud of commitments” as the major output of Rio+20. We can use new information technologies and capabilities, not available at the first Rio summit, to collect and hold accountable individual pledges. These commitments would be listed all in one place on the web so that you could sit at your desk and, with a few clicks of your mouse, track our progress toward sustainability the way you might follow the score of a basketball game. You would also be able to get in the game yourself by commenting on specific commitments and encouraging the leaders to push even harder towards a sustainable future. 

 We need our leaders to step up and recognize Rio+20 is one game we cannot afford to lose. President Rousseff should ask Obama to commit now to come to Rio+20 and to reaffirm their promise last year ”to work closely together to ensure its success. “

Why should President Obama get in the game? Simply put, it is in our nation’s best interest to do so. Do we really want to leave our children a depleted and degraded planet where Americans are less healthy, prosperous and secure? Does the U.S. want to fall behind in the global race toward a green economy, and in the eyes of the world? In the long run, those countries, communities and corporations that take bold steps toward sustainability will be the winners. We’re all in this together, on one small planet, but we’re also competitors.

What country would think to send a team to the Olympics without its team captain and coach? We need our best in Brazil. Twenty years ago, Brazil’s then-president, Fernando Collor de Mello, urged former President George H.W.Bush to attend the first Earth Summit. He accepted the invitation, but it was not until the last minute. The sooner President Obama commits to Rio+20, the sooner other world leaders will see the U.S. is really serious and join us in competing in the global race toward sustainability

For more information, click here.

World Wildlife Fund Global

Brazil’s Senate has decided to pursue short-term gain over long-term security in a vote to do away with long standing protections for the Amazon and other key forested areas, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned Dec. 7.

The new law, promoted by some rural and agribusiness interests, opens vast new areas of forest to agriculture and cattle ranching and extends amnesties to illegal deforestation conducted prior to 2008. Areas formerly held to be too steep or vital to the protection of watersheds and watercourses are among those now open to destruction.

Polls showed a majority of the population opposed to the revision of the Forest Code, with a vocal majority of experts warning that the new version of the law will hinder Brazil’s long-term development and not help it.

“We have a powerful minority condemning the future of millions of Brazilians, all in the name of quick financial gain,” stated WWF-Brazil’s CEO, Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito. “No thought has been given to the social and economic costs of destroying our forests. The Senate has adopted, once again, the outdated and false notion that conservation and development are somehow at odds, something we know is not true.”

Jim Leape on the Brazil Forest Law from WWF on Vimeo.

If signed into law by Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, the changes will jeopardize Brazil’s significant environmental achievements of recent years and severely undermine global efforts to fight climate change and halt biodiversity loss. The changes are also expected to expose poor Brazilians to larger risks from floods and droughts.

Brazil has committed to 2020 targets of a nearly 40 percent cut in its growth curve of greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction of Amazon deforestation levels by 80 percent compared to average rates registered for the period of 1996-2005. These are commitments of global interest, now almost certainly out of reach because of the revisions to the Forest Code.

The Senate decision also comes in the midst of international climate talks in Durban, South Africa, and precedes Brazil’s hosting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in June 2012. Brazil’s credibility as it hosts this and other key global events (2014 World Cup, 2016 Summer Olympics) will be severely compromised if it passes environmental legislation favoring deforestation of the Amazon and other globally-important regions, WWF warned.

“WWF-Brazil has gone along with the legislative processes, has worked with others to help bring science to the political debate and has defined common points with good agribusiness and others,” said Wey de Brito. “Now we must urge President Rousseff to consider the severe implications of signing the revisions into law, including irreparable harm to Brazil’s natural resources, its economic development, and to the future health and well-being of millions of Brazilians and billions of people around the world.”

WWF-Brazil is supported by WWF’s entire international network in urging President Rousseff to act in Brazil’s interests rather than a sectional interest—noting that the president has already said she would not support an amnesty for illegal deforestation.

“We're at a time in history when the world seeks leadership in smart, forward-thinking development,” said WWF International Director-General Jim Leape. “Brazil was staking a claim to being such a leader.

“It will be a tragedy for Brazil and for the world if it now turns its back on more than a decade of achievement to return to the dark days of catastrophic deforestation.”

For more information, click here.

Trending
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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
HighGradeRoots / iStock / Getty Images Plus

CBD, or cannabidiol, now comes in a variety of different forms, including CBD oils, CBD gummies, CBD capsules, and even water soluble CBD powders. You can also use CBD vape oil like you would any other vape juice. Our guide to the best CBD vape oils will help you identify the top brands to consider and will provide important information about CBD, vaping, and wellness.

Read More Show Less
Trending

As cities in the developing world continue to grow, so do their traffic safety concerns. Latin America, for instance, now sees three times as many deaths from traffic crashes as Europe, the vast majority of which occur in cities. Vulnerable road users are particularly at risk: Older pedestrians and cyclists can account for up to 45 percent of pedestrian fatalities and up to 70 percent of cyclist fatalities globally.

Improving developing cities’ traffic safety is a critical task for ensuring that these growing urban centers become safe, equitable places to live. A key part of achieving this safety? Sustainable urban design.

In Rio de Janeiro, proximity to transport is key to ensuring that residents have access to jobs and opportunities within the city. Photo Credit: EMBARQ-Brazil

The connection between safety and justice is a major theme of the upcoming World Urban Forum (WUF7), organized by UN-HABITAT, which this year focuses on “urban equity in development—cities for life.” At the event, EMBARQ experts will host a Cities Safer by Design for All networking session. The event will convene key experts and explore ways that urban design can improve safety—and in turn, justice—in developing cities around the world.

At the Intersection of Safety, Justice and Urban Design

Disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted by shortsighted urban design choices, whether it’s the poor—who are forced to live on the city’s periphery—or the disabled, who face mobility obstacles every day. Smart urban design principles can improve these citizens’ quality of life while also boosting a city’s overall safety.

For example, implementing urban design principles like transit-oriented development (TOD), which encourage mixed commercial and residential land use, compact layout, access to high-quality mass transport, and pedestrian-friendly streets, is an important step towards creating livable cities for all communities. Cities built in this way provide opportunities for walking, bicycling, and using transport instead of relying on a car—an expense many cannot afford. Furthermore, promoting sustainable urban design components like bike lanes and pedestrian walkways can have significant traffic safety benefits through reducing exposure—such as by preventing the need for vehicle travel altogether—and risk—by limiting vehicle speeds and prioritizing pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Connecting urban design to safety is a concept that’s still under-utilized by most local officials and even urban planners. But some cities are beginning to emerge as leaders in this space:

Mexico City, Mexico

In order to combat its history of urban sprawl, Mexico City is enhancing its sustainable transport systems and revitalizing public spaces. The newest corridor of the Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT) system took a complete streets approach, which aims to design streets that account for all road users, providing safe infrastructure for transport, cars, cyclists and pedestrians. One shining example of the transformation along Avenida Eduardo Molina is the city’s decision to change a dangerous and confusing intersection design that forced cars and buses to switch from the right side of the road to the left at the stoplight. EMBARQ research finds that streets with such confusing designs, called counter-flow intersections, have 82 percent more severe and fatal crashes than other streets.

Mexico City has also introduced new “pocket parks” or “parklets,” which repurpose street space previously allotted to cars to create new public spaces for socialization and interaction. These spaces help to calm traffic, reduce street-crossing distances for pedestrians, and provide protected areas for recreation. The city has built five in the last year, and expects to build as many as 150 in the coming years.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

As a host to both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro is using these mega events as a catalyst to make significant improvements to its design. One of Rio’s flagship projects is the Morar Carioca initiative, which pledges $ 3.76 billion to improve accessibility, health, education, and the environment in the city’s favelas.

Favelas pose an interesting challenge for city officials, as they house the city’s poorest residents and are often cut off from city services. Furthermore, EMBARQ Brazil’s household travel survey revealed that 90 percent of residents travel on foot while inside favelas, yet 70 percent use public transport when outside favelas. In short, proximity to transport is key to ensuring that these residents have access to jobs and opportunities within the city.

With this in mind, Morar Carioca is the one of the first favela improvement initiatives in Rio to emphasize connecting these communities to the city via new BRT lines like the TransCarioca, which will also connect the core of the city to the Olympic Village in 2016. Systems like TransCarioca will provide vital access to jobs and opportunities in the city center and help ensure that favela residents are not cut off from the benefits of urban life.

Bangalore, India

Plans for a Bangalore plaza and station prioritize safe access to transportation for a growing population. Rendering credit: EMBARQ-INDIA

Bangalore is one of the fastest-growing cities in India, with almost 10 million residents. The majority of this population relies on public transport—most notably bus and metro—for mobility, so it’s imperative that these services meet the needs of all residents. Bangalore, like many Indian cities, is also home to many making a living through the informal economy—such as street vendors and auto-rickshaw drivers—who rely on pedestrian traffic and transit hubs to make their living. While Bangalore’s bus and metro stations are hubs of economic activity, they are also currently hubs of congestion and chaos. Previous attempts to ease congestion and improve safety around these areas have privileged cars over pedestrians and transport users. They’ve also squelched the informal economy, harming the city’s poorest residents.

To reverse this trend, EMBARQ India is working with local authorities to make transport hubs safer for cars, cyclists, and pedestrians while retaining the vitality of the informal economic sector. New station area plans for Bangalore’s Namma Metro prioritize safe access to transport hubs and reorganize public space around these hubs. The redesigned stations promote safer links to other transport modes like auto-rickshaws and buses, provide space for vendors, and improve the quality of the public space and public transit experience for all. With the plans now under development, city officials intend to implement the new station designs over the next two years, improving accessibility and safety in some of the most crowded parts of the city.

Putting Urban Design and Safety on the International Agenda

It’s time to change the narrative about urban design. It’s not about building more roads or luxury apartment complexes; it’s about creating cities that are safer, more livable and healthier for a growing number of residents. As this year’s WUF7 tagline explains, “A safe city is a just and equitable city.”

Discussions at the WUF7 can play an important role in shifting the urban design narrative. While the week-long conference emphasizes civil society participation, the official dialogues will feed into the ongoing discussions of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, clarifying issues related to urban prosperity. These include such broad topics as sustainable cities and human settlements, infrastructure, and economic growth. The WUF7 presents an opportunity for organizations from around the world to insert real examples, bring this agenda to life, and explicitly tie equity to the urban development narrative. In short, the WUF7 discussions are a key way of ensuring that safe and equitable cities are a first-level objective of the U.N.’s emerging SDGs, which are set to be released in 2015.

Every minute of every day, new cities are being built and existing cities are constantly evolving. Smart design can help ensure that these cities are built for people—not cars.

——–

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

Melbourne’s Sustainable Building Program Wins Climate Leadership Award

Ten U.S. Cities Band Together to Cut Climate Pollution

Rooftop Farm in New York City Grows 50,000 Pounds of Organic Produce Per Year

——–

Waging Nonviolence

By Peter Rugh

Monica posing with employees of the Department of Sanitation who are having their workplace turned upside down from Spectra nosing its way into our city. Photos by Erik McGregor.

A hard rain was falling on Monday night as Occupy the Pipeline activists spread out along New York’s Hudson River Park, in front of the site where workers in orange day-glow vests have been laboring around the clock on the New Jersey-New York Expansion Project. Known colloquially by the name of its builder, Spectra Energy, the Spectra Pipeline will pump fuel hydraulically-fracked from Pennsylvania’s gas fields into New York City.

The very real risk of explosion along the densely populated regions through which the pipeline passes have made local residents want nothing to do with the project, as evidenced by letters submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the pipeline’s approval process. Only 22 of the 5,000 letters were in favor of the project.

The Spectra Pipeline is just one of a new breed of high pressure pipelines being built around the country to expand the gas market to meet the increasing output of U.S. shale production. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Oct. 18, 2011, Spectra Energy entered into a $1.5 billion revolving credit agreement with the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Through what’s known as a syndicated loan, Wall Street infused Spectra with capital and spread the financial risk around, while leaving the risk of possible explosion for local residents to bear.

On Oct. 15, Occupy the Pipeline activists wrapped themselves in yellow caution tape as they stood in front of the pipeline construction site. They had black-and-white skeleton makeup on their faces—representing, they said, the danger of fossil fuels turning humans into fossils—which was bleeding down their chins because of the rain. The tape woven around the bodies of those on the line served as a symbol of interconnectivity.

“We are all connected through a web of toxic pipelines,” Occupy the Pipeline organizer Monica Hunken cried out through the people’s microphone, “but we are also connected by a vision for safe and sustainable world.”

Seeing their local fight against Spectra as a microcosm of a broader battle, Occupy the Pipeline put out a call several weeks earlier for those opposing America’s fossil fuel beef-up to join them in a day of action. In Texas, activists who have been carrying out direct actions against the Keystone XL didn’t need much prodding. On #O15, as the date has been called, 50 people stood in the way of the pipeline that NASA climate scientist James Hansen has told the New York Times means “game over” in the fight against climate change.

Michele, Dave, Maureen (from CARP-Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline), Kim & Monica holding the signs. Photos by Erik McGregor.

The Keystone XL is designed to bring heavy crude oil from a deforested region in Alberta, Canada, to export markets along America’s Gulf Coast. After more than 1,000 people were arrested sitting-in at the White House against the pipeline in the summer of 2011, and thousands formed a ring around the White House last November, President Barack Obama announced in January he was nixing approval of the pipeline until after the 2012 election. Quietly, however, his administration gave the go-ahead for construction of the XL’s southern portion.

During a stump speech in Cushing, Oklahoma—a town known as the “Pipeline Capital of the World”—Obama disputed claims that he was a softhearted environmentalist. “We’ve built enough pipeline to encircle the earth and then some,” he told the Cushing crowd. Writing at Grist, shortly after Obama’s Department of the Interior issued four coal mining leases for the Powder River Basin in 2011, Glenn Hurowitz summed up the president’s “all of the above” energy policy as “effectively using modest wind and solar investments as cover for a broader embrace of dirty fuels.” It’s a trick straight out of BP or Chevron’s playbook, writes Hurowitz, to “tout modest environmental investments in multi-million dollar PR campaigns, while putting the real money into fossil fuel development.” But these days Obama does not appear to be playing down his enthusiasm for coal, gas and oil.

While the U.S. under Obama’s leadership is deepening its reliance on fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions have led the climate and the human race along with it into what Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), calls “uncharted territory.” Data collected by Serreze and fellow researchers in September shows that 1.32 million square miles of arctic ice cover withered away over the summer, more than in any year previously on record. The team had anticipated a record melt, but the scope of this year’s de-icing far exceeded its expectations. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up,” reported Serreze, “few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.”

Fortunately for those concerned about the impact of fossil fuels on the biosphere, opposition to the escalating rate of ecological devastation has entered “uncharted territory” as well. In what has been termed a “Summer of Solidarity,” actions against ecological devastation took place in numerous regions across the U.S.

More than 50 blockaders risked arrest to stop Keystone XL construction in Texas and bring attention to TransCanada’s repression of journalists attempting to cover the blockaders’ side of the story.

As thousands marched in the first national rally against fracking in Washington, D.C., 50 people walked onto the country’s largest mountaintop removal site in West Virginia and shut it down. Union workers locked out of the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, picketed beside environmentalists. In New York, Occupy the Pipeline challenged Spectra through sit-ins and lockdowns, while Puerto Rican activists battled (and halted) a natural gas pipeline through a campaign in which both islanders and the mainland diaspora took part.

Actions in the U.S. were inspired by bold and brazen acts of ecological defiance globally including the occupation of the massive Bela Monte Dam in Brazil’s rainforest by indigenous tribes amidst the Rio+20 climate conference and a weeklong blockade of the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia. All the while in Texas, lockdowns and tree-sits against Keystone XL took off one after another.

In Massachusetts, where Spectra Energy is attempting to soup up the Algonquin Gas Transmission line, activists with 350.org and the Better Futures Project met the #O15 call with a tree-sit near Boston. They held banners reading, “TransCanada, You Shall Not Win” and “In Unity With @KXLBlockade & @occupy_pipeline.”

“We leave the 'Summer of Solidarity' with friends still sitting in tree tops, with the direct actions of thousands still reverberating, and we enter the 'Autumn of Unity,'” Monica Hunken told the soggy crowd back in New York. As the effects of climate change become more acute Hunken expressed hope that those resisting it will forge stronger ties with one another.

During Occupy Wall Street’s anniversary weekend in New York, I spoke to Sam Rubin, an anti-fracking activist from Ohio who was in town to storm the Stock Exchange. Then, last Sunday, Rubin and comrades blockaded a fracking site in eastern Ohio, ahead of the #O15 day of action. While in New York last month, Rubin told me that he hails from an area outside of Cleveland hit hard by the recession, where U.S. Steel recently reopened a plant for the first time in two years.

“For these guys to be coming back to work is a huge deal for them,” Rubin said. “They are making steal for pipelines to build-up the fracking infrastructure.” Rubin is part of an emerging breed of environmental activists who see their ecological activism as part of a broader movement for social change. As he and other activists draw on the solidarity fermented over the summer, Rubin said it is import to see their ecological struggles within the pervasive framework of global capitalism, “a system based on growth and extraction for profit fundamentally dependent on human exploitation.”

“Otherwise” added Rubin, “I’m just some guy in a bubble who only cares about my little issue.”

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

 

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Jacob Scherr

Used with permission of NRDC - Switchboard

Today, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff met with President Obama in the White House. They will undoubtedly discuss the upcoming big international athletic matches to be held in Rio de Janeiro: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. These games will mark Brazil’s emergence as a power on the world scene; and Brazil plans to invest some $200 billion in new infrastructure for them—an important opportunity for U.S. businesses. However, there is an even more crucial global event being hosted by Brazil this June—the Rio+20 Earth Summit—which deserves both Presidents’ full attention.                                 

Brazil and the U.S. should work together to ensure Rio+20—officially labeled the UN Conference on Sustainable Development—is truly historic and transformative. It needs to be different than the first Earth Summit in Rio held in 1992. That gathering of more than 100 presidents and prime ministers generated thousands of promises, including two treaties and Agenda 21, a 400-page plan of action.

There was real hope then that governments were going to solve the challenge of meeting the ever-growing needs of people while protecting our environment. While there has been some progress, the pressures on the planet have intensified, billions still live in abject poverty, and wealth has become even more concentrated. As Thomas Lovejoy wrote in a New York Times OpEd last week, “human ingenuity should be up to the challenge. But it has to recognize the problem and address it with immediacy and at scale.”

Yet history could repeat itself if President Rousseff and President Obama do not get focused on Rio+20. The U.S. and other countries have argued that the objective of the meeting should be taking action, not producing yet another long plan of action. Yet that is exactly what is now happening.

Since January, the “zero” draft of the Rio+20 output document has swollen to more than 200 pages of abstract statements and collective promises—many of which have been made many times before at earlier international conferences. We need to do more than just say, for example, that the world pledges to provide sustainable energy and safe water in the distant future to the one billion people who lack access to them now.

Imagine if we ran the Olympics this way. What if we brought the world’s athletes together to set goals like, by the end of these three weeks, we’ll have run 10,000 miles jumped 5,000 feet, and made a 1,000 free throws. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Who would be responsible for its achievement? What, exactly, would the incentive be for any one team or athlete to perform? This, you might say, represents a version of the tragedy of the commons: The tragedy of a common agenda that holds no one accountable.

The Olympics are inspiring and successful because they consist of small performances from individual competitors. Each athlete has incentive to succeed, and each sets personal goals to achieve their potential.

It is this competitive spirit and drive that we need to bring to Rio+20. Instead of the traditional approach to international summitry, let’s create a field where all the players—not just national governments—can show off their talents. If Rio+20 is to be meaningful—and for everyone’s sake, it simply has to be—the conference needs to encourage individual countries, communities and corporations to pledge specific, measurable actions to which they are accountable. Here is NRDC’s vision for the 2012 Earth Summit, including our list of potential Rio+20 deliverables from ending fossil fuel subsidies to reducing plastic pollution.

NRDC is advocating for a “cloud of commitments” as the major output of Rio+20. We can use new information technologies and capabilities, not available at the first Rio summit, to collect and hold accountable individual pledges. These commitments would be listed all in one place on the web so that you could sit at your desk and, with a few clicks of your mouse, track our progress toward sustainability the way you might follow the score of a basketball game. You would also be able to get in the game yourself by commenting on specific commitments and encouraging the leaders to push even harder towards a sustainable future. 

 We need our leaders to step up and recognize Rio+20 is one game we cannot afford to lose. President Rousseff should ask Obama to commit now to come to Rio+20 and to reaffirm their promise last year ”to work closely together to ensure its success. “

Why should President Obama get in the game? Simply put, it is in our nation’s best interest to do so. Do we really want to leave our children a depleted and degraded planet where Americans are less healthy, prosperous and secure? Does the U.S. want to fall behind in the global race toward a green economy, and in the eyes of the world? In the long run, those countries, communities and corporations that take bold steps toward sustainability will be the winners. We’re all in this together, on one small planet, but we’re also competitors.

What country would think to send a team to the Olympics without its team captain and coach? We need our best in Brazil. Twenty years ago, Brazil’s then-president, Fernando Collor de Mello, urged former President George H.W.Bush to attend the first Earth Summit. He accepted the invitation, but it was not until the last minute. The sooner President Obama commits to Rio+20, the sooner other world leaders will see the U.S. is really serious and join us in competing in the global race toward sustainability

For more information, click here.

World Wildlife Fund Global

Brazil’s Senate has decided to pursue short-term gain over long-term security in a vote to do away with long standing protections for the Amazon and other key forested areas, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned Dec. 7.

The new law, promoted by some rural and agribusiness interests, opens vast new areas of forest to agriculture and cattle ranching and extends amnesties to illegal deforestation conducted prior to 2008. Areas formerly held to be too steep or vital to the protection of watersheds and watercourses are among those now open to destruction.

Polls showed a majority of the population opposed to the revision of the Forest Code, with a vocal majority of experts warning that the new version of the law will hinder Brazil’s long-term development and not help it.

“We have a powerful minority condemning the future of millions of Brazilians, all in the name of quick financial gain,” stated WWF-Brazil’s CEO, Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito. “No thought has been given to the social and economic costs of destroying our forests. The Senate has adopted, once again, the outdated and false notion that conservation and development are somehow at odds, something we know is not true.”

Jim Leape on the Brazil Forest Law from WWF on Vimeo.

If signed into law by Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, the changes will jeopardize Brazil’s significant environmental achievements of recent years and severely undermine global efforts to fight climate change and halt biodiversity loss. The changes are also expected to expose poor Brazilians to larger risks from floods and droughts.

Brazil has committed to 2020 targets of a nearly 40 percent cut in its growth curve of greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction of Amazon deforestation levels by 80 percent compared to average rates registered for the period of 1996-2005. These are commitments of global interest, now almost certainly out of reach because of the revisions to the Forest Code.

The Senate decision also comes in the midst of international climate talks in Durban, South Africa, and precedes Brazil’s hosting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in June 2012. Brazil’s credibility as it hosts this and other key global events (2014 World Cup, 2016 Summer Olympics) will be severely compromised if it passes environmental legislation favoring deforestation of the Amazon and other globally-important regions, WWF warned.

“WWF-Brazil has gone along with the legislative processes, has worked with others to help bring science to the political debate and has defined common points with good agribusiness and others,” said Wey de Brito. “Now we must urge President Rousseff to consider the severe implications of signing the revisions into law, including irreparable harm to Brazil’s natural resources, its economic development, and to the future health and well-being of millions of Brazilians and billions of people around the world.”

WWF-Brazil is supported by WWF’s entire international network in urging President Rousseff to act in Brazil’s interests rather than a sectional interest—noting that the president has already said she would not support an amnesty for illegal deforestation.

“We're at a time in history when the world seeks leadership in smart, forward-thinking development,” said WWF International Director-General Jim Leape. “Brazil was staking a claim to being such a leader.

“It will be a tragedy for Brazil and for the world if it now turns its back on more than a decade of achievement to return to the dark days of catastrophic deforestation.”

For more information, click here.

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